Marcus Tan

Marcus Tan is a designer and co-founder at Carousell in Singapore. Carousell is an ecommerce app that was created by Marcus and his co-founders, Quek Siu Rui  and Lucas Ngoo, in 2012. The idea was born when Marcus and his co-founders realized they had some clutter in their homes and wanted a platform that allowed them to sell off the stuff they no longer needed. They found that the equivalent of “Craigslist” in Singapore was full of false ads and not meeting the needs of consumers. With the idea for an ecommerce app, they entered Startup Weekend in Singapore and won. On Carousell, you simply snap a photo of whatever you want to sell and make a listing in seconds. It is simple and fast allowing people to quickly sell products. “Popular items include high street fashion, beauty products and lifestyle gadgets.”

Spencer: So Marcus, give me a little background on Carousell and your role?

Marcus: Carousell is a mobile app we launched two and a half years ago. It is an online forum like Craigslist that people can use to sell things. We wanted something simple and social. I am a designer and co-founder. I have focused a lot on our user experience and the interface they interact with. I’ve found that it is important to be fast and iterative as we implement new features and look to fine tune our app according to the feedback we are receiving. We have continued to add new, useful features and remove old features that don’t offer our users any value.

Spencer: Where did you meet your co-founders?

Marcus: I met one of my co-founders in polytechnic school 10 years ago. We have been friends for a while. He, one of his roommates, and I got together and wanted to start a business, but we didn’t have any ideas of problems we could solve for people. When we realized there was a need for an ecommerce app in singapore, we decided to take the idea to Startup Weekend as an opportunity to think more about the idea and get some feedback. When we won, it validated our idea and gave us the confidence to press forward with making Carousell a reality.

Spencer: How was your educational experience at the National University of Singapore and Stanford?

Marcus: My education was really valuable in terms of building many of the necessary skills I use today. At Stanford especially, there was a large ecosystem of entrepreneurship and mentors everywhere that were willing to share their experience and advice. Many Alum came back to Stanford regularly to share stories of failure and more importantly success.

Spencer: Do you feel your education prepared you to do a startup?

Marcus: I would say yes and no. Yes, I was introduced to a great network of people. No, there are many things that you can only learn from going out and doing it. School can be very theoretical. Trying to do something teaches you many lessons you can’t learn in a classroom.

Spencer: Where do you see Carousell in the future?

Marcus: eCommerce has a lot of potential. We really want to create a marketplace, not just an app. It takes time to communicate the value proposition of something new to consumers and get them actively using the app. We’ve found that once we get a few users really excited, it helps things to get rolling. Carousell is currently in a few cities and we are looking to expand to others. The best part of our work is hearing the success stories of people using the Carousell marketplace. We feel fortunate to be working on a product that positively impacts peoples’ lives.

Spencer Reynolds